From Rags to Riches: The full Biography of RALPH LAUREN - Fashion Worldwide

There are a bunch of important names in the fashion industry that worth to thank a lot for. Ralph Lauren is one of them. Puting aside the fact that is an American clothing designer – best known for his sportswear line Polo Ralph Lauren – he is also a philanthropist that founded the charitable organizations, Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention and Pink Pony Fund.

With his ambitious personality, he anticipated the upcoming fashion market and enlarged his activities diverging out into women’s clothing, furniture, sheets and towels. Here’s more about him!

The iconic fashion designer Ralph Lauren was born as Ralph Lifshitz in New York City on October 14, 1939. He is the third of 4 siblings.


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At the age of 16, Ralph and his brother Jerry decided to change their last name to Lauren after having been teased consistently at school.

Even as a teen, Ralph was known for his distinctive fashion sense, finding his inspiration in screen icons like Fred Astaire and Cary Grant. He discovered his attraction towards both classic preppy wear and vintage looks.

He attended Baruch College in Manhattan, where he studied business for 2 years. After a brief period away from the army, Lauren took on a sales job at Brooks Brothers. From that moment on, he never went back.

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1967, The development of an International Brand

Lauren’s empire was founded in 1967, after he opened his first tie shop, with no formal design training. Before that, Lauren worked in retail at Brooks Brothers. The designer soon began creating his own men’s neckties with a wider cut, branding them under the name Polo and selling them at large department stores, including Bloomingdale’s. He fully developed a business with a $30,000 loan. He expanded his designs to a full menswear line.


Lauren received the Coty Award for his menswear designs. Following this recognition, he released a line of women’s suits tailored in a classic men’s style. The launch of his official womenswear collection was the following year.

“I believe in clothes that last, that are not dated in a season.

The people who wear my clothes don’t think of them as fashion.”


He officially introduced his Ralph Lauren womenswear label. He also added to his brand a luxury clothing line known as Ralph Lauren Purple, a rough and rustic line of apparel, a home-furnishing collection called Ralph Lauren Home and a set of fragrances.

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Lauren released the short-sleeve cotton shirt in 24 colors, that soon became the brand’s signature look. This design, along with the company’s famed logo (the polo player, created by tennis pro Rene Lacoste) became famous worldwide.

Lauren opened his first retail store in Beverly Hills, California, building toward a total of 116 Polo-Ralph Lauren stores in the US as well as 1.300 boutiques (small shops within department stores).


Photo Source: The Home Company


Lauren designed the looks for the cast members for the film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.


The designer then became well known for the distinctive looks of Diane Keaton when she played in Annie Hall.


The fashion designer opened his company’s flagship store in New York’s Rhinelander Mansion on Madison Avenue. Lauren became so famous that he won 7 Coty Design Awards and was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame.

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In the mid 1980s, Ralph Lauren had a surgery  to remove a benign tumor from his brain. Due to that struggle, he has funded a bunch of initiatives to support cancer research and care. In 1989 he co-founded Georgetown University’s Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research.


This was his year to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of American Fashion Designers and also, a tribute for 25 years of impact on American style from the Woolmark Awards.


The Council of Fashion Designers elected him Designer of the Year.

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In the mid ‘1990s, Goldman Sachs purchased more than a quarter of the company. Polo Ralph Lauren went public on June 11, 1997, trading under the symbol RL.


Lauren announced that his company would donate $13 million to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., in order to preserve the original American flag that inspired the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” back in 1812.


Ralph Lauren signed a landmark 30-year deal with NBC and 2 NBC affiliates to sell his designer “lifestyle” on the internet, on TV and in print. Nowadays, the preppy look of the designer collections is now completed by sportswear, casual wear and home furnishings.

During the same year, Lauren launched – the company’s website with full access to all Ralph Lauren products.

“We don’t only sell clothes, we are selling a dream and a vision.”

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Lauren was a true collector of rare automobiles, including a 1930 Mercedes-Benz Count Trossi SSK known as “The Black Prince”, McLaren F1s, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Mercedes, Ferraris and a Blower Bentley. Lauren allowed his collection to be displayed at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.


He was made Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.


Lauren has designed Olympic uniforms for Team USA.


Polo by Ralph Lauren earned Lauren a personal fortune estimated at more than $6 billion, ranking Lauren among the 200 richest people in the world. He soon appointed Stefan Larsson, the global president of The Gap’s Old Navy division, to take over as CEO. That way, the designer took on the role of executive chairman and chief creative officer of the company he founded.

Personal Life

He married Ricky Anne Loew-Beer on December 20, 1964, in New York City. They have 3 children: Andrew – a film producer and actor, David – senior VP at Ralph Lauren and Dylan – who runs Dylan’s Candy Bar in New York.


Photo Source: Getty Images for Ralph Lauren. Daily Mail.

Michael Gross, author of the biography Genuine Authentic: The Real Life of Ralph Lauren said ”Ralph brought to the fashion business the vision, that ability to step into a fantasy world”.

The brand he established, is now one part of an international empire that includes fragrances, home furnishings, luxury clothing and dining based on a fantasy aesthetic of upper-crust life.


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